Category: CIS News

C&IS Welcomes New Faculty

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) is dedicated to fostering collaboration, unity and passion through distinguished faculty and staff. This fall C&IS welcomes eight new faculty members who bring with them each a notable record of academic achievement. C&IS is proud to introduce the new faculty who will continue the College’s tradition of excellence:

Dr. Margaret D’Silva, Department Chair for Communication Studies

Jeremy Levine, Assistant Professor, Journalism and Creative Media

Jay Kim, Instructor, Advertising and Public Relations


Dr. Courtney Boman, Assistant Professor, Advertising and Public Relations

Dr. Landon Palmer, Assistant Professor, Journalism and Creative Media

Dr. Brandon Colvin, Assistant Professor, Journalism and Creative Media

Mark Mayfield, Instructor and News Media Internship Coordinator, Journalism and Creative Media

Dr. Kaitlin Miller, Assistant Professor, Journalism and Creative Media


Public Relations Program Named #1 in the Country by PRWeek

The Department of Advertising and Public Relations (APR) in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) was named the Most Outstanding Education Program by PRWeek during the 2020 PRWeek Awards. APR finished ahead of the four other finalists, Boston University College of Communication, NYU School of Professional Studies, Syracuse University/Newhouse and Pennsylvania State University. This marks the ninth time that APR has been named a finalist, and the first time the program has won the honor.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by PRWeek as the most outstanding public relations education program in the nation,” said Dr. Damion Waymer, department chair for advertising and public relations. “It is evidence of The University of Alabama having one of the best student-run agencies in the nation, a decorated faculty, award-winning students, and a highly-regarded Industry Immersion program that gives students exposure to top companies and agencies. We have always believed that we have a very special public relations program, and it is great to be recognized officially in this regard!”

Additionally, two APR students were named in the top 5 finalists for the Most Outstanding PR Student Award: Maribeth McClenny from Tallahassee, FL, and Annie Hollon from Flower Mound, TX. McClenny was named as Honorable Mention for the award. This marks the fourth year in a row at least one C&IS student has been a finalist, including back-to-back winners of the award in 2018 and 2019.

“This honor is indicative of the continued excellence of our advertising and public relations department,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of C&IS. “It is a testament to our dedicated faculty and staff, who go the extra mile to ensure the success of our students. We are proud to have such a quality academic program with outstanding experiential learning opportunities.”

The judging criteria for submissions consider each program’s faculty contributions to PR in teaching, research and service to the industry, and the program’s initiatives in connecting current and former students to the PR industry in three areas: job and internship placements, speakers and events, and consulting and experiential learning.

Submitted entries for the PRWeek Awards are deliberated upon by a panel of judges including PR education professionals and senior PR professionals from agency, corporate, nonprofit and government teams.

C&IS Names New Communication Studies Department Chair

Dr. Margaret D’Silva

The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) has announced Dr. Margaret D’Silva as the newest chair of the department of communication studies. Dr. D’Silva joins C&IS after spending 27 years at the University of Louisville’s department of communication, as well as serving as the director of Louisville’s Institute for Intercultural Communication.

“Dr. D’Silva brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Department of Communication Studies,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS. “She has a diverse portfolio of teaching experience, research, and student programs that will continue to enhance the departmental mission and the experience for our students and faculty. We are very fortunate to have her join the College.”

Dr. D’Silva will follow Dr. Beth Bennett, who will continue her work in the College as senior associate dean, a role she was holding alongside her position as department chair for the last few years.

Dr. D’Silva holds a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Kentucky and has served as editor of the journal Intercultural Communication Studies, Chair of the Asian Pacific American Caucus & Studies Division of the National Communication Association and Chair of the Southern States Communication Association’s Intercultural and Popular Communication Divisions.

Prior to earning her Ph.D., Dr. D’Silva received her bachelor’s degree from St. Agnes College in Georgia and her master’s degree from the University of Mysore in Mysore, India. Her research includes public communication campaigns, children and television, and global mass media. Dr. D’Silva begins as department chair on July 1, 2020.

Welcome Dr. D’Silva!

Center for Public Television Earns Six Emmy Nominations

This weekend, the Center for Public Television and Radio (CPT), part of the Digital Media Center, received six Southeast Emmy nominations. The projects nominated included a mix of CPT staff and students and faculty from the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS).

The projects nominated are:

  • Life is So Delicious: Seth Farmer, Will Green, Reagan Wells*
  • Movie Guy: Seth Farmer, Will Green and Nathan Stephenson*
  • Visual Vernacular: Will Green, Kailey New*, Seth Farmer and Liam Parker*
  • The Forum: Seth Farmer, Nathan Stephenson*, Will Green and Communication Studies assistant professor Dr. Darrin Griffin
  • The Hurricane Creekkeeper: Will Green, Seth Farmer, Mack McCollum* and Montana Maniscalco*
  • Tuscaloosa Bicentennial: Seth Farmer, Will Green and Reagan Wells*

(* denotes C&IS students)

“Receiving a single nomination is an honor, and receiving six nominations is truly remarkable,” said Elizabeth Brock, Director of the DMC. “The fact that all six nominations were for projects produced by teams of professionals and students is a source of great pride to all of us who work at The University of Alabama’s Digital Media Center. Our mission is to provide Alabama communities with important, well told stories, and to provide students with real world experience that will help them in whatever careers they pursue after graduation.”

The Southeast region comprises markets of all sizes from Alabama, the Carolinas, Georgia and Mississippi. The winners will be announced September 12, 2020.

Title cards for two of the nominated projects: Tuscaloosa Bicentennial (left) and The Forum (right).


APR Class Prepares Students for “the New Normal” of Live Entertainment

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, the streaming platform Twitch was quickly growing as an advertising market. The service had 127 million unique viewers worldwide in 2019 and was poised to continue to grow in 2020.

Then the pandemic happened, and shelter in place regulations led many people to join Twitch for the first time, while still more turned up their streaming numbers. According to TwitchTracker, since late February, users have broadcast over 200 billion hours of footage. For reference, that’s 230,000 years of footage.

NASCAR, the NBA and Major League Baseball have also leaned heavily into Twitch for content, with the latter showcasing one player from all 30 teams playing “The Show 20” in what they called “The Players’ League.” During last week’s finals, the Rays’ Blake Snell, an active Twitch user, defeated Lucas Giolito of the White Sox. ESPN broadcasted an NBA 2K tournament with active NBA players, which was won by the Suns’ Devin Booker.

Started in 2011, Twitch has experienced exponential growth over the past nine years as a video game streaming platform, but in the last few years, the service has expanded to include live events, original programming and an entire new market to be targeted by advertising, marketing and public relations professionals. As such, the College has been teaching students ways to utilize Twitch for two years in advertising and public relations instructor Randall Huffaker’s APR 490 class, a special topics course.

“It’s really about the content marketing,” said Huffaker. “Twitch is just the platform. It allows you to create whatever you want to create. It’s not about gaming, gaming is just one piece of it.”

In the class, students get hands-on experience operating a branded Twitch channel, including streaming video gameplay, but also live entertainment and original content. In March, Encore, the live music program from the department of journalism and creative media, was live-streamed on Huffaker’s class’s Twitch channel.

The best way to prepare for this kind of new platform is for students to be hands-on. This allows them to control content, analyze metrics for what works, and adjust as needed. Simulations can only tell part of the story and will leave students short-changed at the end. More than that, students can follow passion projects and create whatever content they want to share with the audience.

“More and more industry experts see Twitch as more than a video game streaming service, they see it as a place to share ideas,” Huffaker said. An example Huffaker shared was a man in China who, at 4 o’clock in the morning, was sharing his religion to an audience of 400,000 people.

This is a global shift. In the United States, Twitch’s overall content is 95 percent gaming-focused. Outside of the United States, gaming only makes up 5 percent of Twitch’s content. For the other 95 percent outside the U.S., Twitch is an interactive forum to learn together and teach other people about personal interests. That’s the focus of Huffaker’s class.

“The hardest thing so far is trying to have a structure where they’re always creating stuff. It doesn’t just have to be gaming,” Huff said, focusing on the content marketing component. “When you get a steady mix of kids, you get them interested in many different things.”

Each semester, gaming makes up less of the class content. In his first semester teaching this class, Huffaker said it was all gaming. Now, three semesters later, it’s down to 80 percent. Original content topics have ranged from live music to college success tips to breakdowns of the latest episode of “The Bachelor.” The goal is for students to find a passion and build and nurture their own audience.

Huffaker wants to see the class continue to grow on campus. As a special topics class, Huffaker’s class is open to all of campus, including current students from engineering and health and human services. One area he’d like to see the Twitch channel expand is with the University Athletics Department, showing programs like The Nick Saban Show, or sports like wheelchair basketball, hockey and women’s soccer.

“People want to see content,” Huffaker said. Word is spreading on campus about the class, partly due to Huffaker’s efforts to spread the word and partner with other organizations and departments, and people are joining to build their own brands and create.

“I try to avoid lectures, outside of the first few weeks of class,” Huffaker said. “I just want them to create. It’s just up to them to find that passion and go to work.”

In the absence of traditional sports, many people around the world have turned to Twitch for entertainment and content, and the platform has garnered a much bigger audience, which in turn has led to more sponsors and a greater platform for future marketers. Twitch provides opportunities for both content creators and public relations professionals and marketers to reach a wider audience. Thanks to the dedicated C&IS faculty staying ahead of industry trends, students will be prepared to thrive in the world of “the new normal.”

Minerva Student Team Wins Young Ones Bronze Pencil

A student team from The University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) has been awarded a Bronze Pencil Award from the One Club’s Young Ones competition.

The team includes C&IS students Ramsey Chandler, Isabella Hardt, Blake Rozas and Rachel Williams, and is the second team from C&IS to win a Young Ones Bronze Pencil in the past four years.

“A ton of dedication and effort goes into making something that can compete at this exceptionally high level,” said Mark Barry, assistant professor of advertising and public relations and director of Minerva, the creative advertising specialization at C&IS. “I’m incredibly proud of all the students who entered work in the Young Ones competition this year and am excited to be able to celebrate their hard work like this. Every one of our teams entered smart, well-executed campaigns, and I’m thrilled that the Burger King team won a pencil. It’s a huge win for these young advertising creatives.”

The Young Ones is an international student creative competition put on by The One Club for Creativity in New York. According to Barry, a pencil award from The One Club is one of the most prestigious awards in advertising, similar to winning an Oscar in the film industry.

For this year’s competition, the One Club issued eight client briefs. UA’s winning student team selected the brief for Burger King, which asked for a memorable campaign that uses digital coupons, targeting 18- to 24-year-olds. For this brief, only seven campaigns were awarded pencils (one gold, three silver, three bronze).

“Once we got the brief back in January, we knew that we wanted to create a campaign that really stood out,” said Isabella Hardt. “After extensive research into all things Burger King, we came across a petition against Burger King and saw the opportunity right in front of us.”

The team spent countless hours poring through Reddit threads, Facebook posts and any tweets mentioning Burger King. They stumbled upon a petition launched by the organization One Million Moms which is a division of the American Family Association, a self-identified “pro-family organization.” The petition urged Burger King to edit or remove an advertisement that contained the word “damn” in a customer’s response to the Impossible Whopper.

This petition gave the students an idea. Their concept would let Burger King customers purchase a “Free-Speech Whopper” through the company’s mobile app. With their purchase, they would be able to name their Whopper whatever they wanted. Customers would order a “____ Whopper” and a portion of the proceeds would go to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Click here to view the team’s submission.

“A year ago, I had a chance to go to the Young Ones award show and the one thing that became apparent was how it was the same few schools that won every award,” said Blake Rozas. “We wanted to prove that creativity isn’t limited to portfolio schools. Sometimes, a group of four undergrads in Tuscaloosa can compete and win.”

The One Club released a list ranking the participating institutions based on their teams’ performance in the Young Ones competition. Most of the schools on the list are either private, international or independent portfolio schools. The University of Alabama is the second-highest ranked public university (Kean University, New Jersey).

Other campaigns submitted by Minerva students are listed below.

Greatness Has No Gender
The North Face
Carolyn Crane, Cori Greenfield, Kiley Bolyard, Katie Merifield

Do It For The Cheers
Michelob Ultra
Emily Charbonneau

Claire Sweeney, McKenzie Woodall

Spotify Mixtape
Bentley Harden, Rachel Williams, McKenzie Woodall

Hidden History

Miller Genuine Draft 
Callie Earles, Anna Dodson, Caroline Green, Carly D’Alto

Minerva is the creative advertising specialization and portfolio program at The University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. For more information on Minerva, visit To learn more about C&IS, visit

Brinson and Holiday Study the Effects of TV Advertising on Children

The Child and Family Media Lab in Reese Phifer Hall is an engaging space for researchers to observe, interact and study the reactions and responses of children to various forms of media


Our world is increasingly surrounded by advertising—on billboards, internet pop-ups, radio, television and even online games—all to keep consumers constantly abreast of the goods and services that will simplify their lives or satisfy their needs. Children born today will never know anything different than being constantly followed by advertisers everywhere they go, but how do these ads affect children? Are they more vulnerable to an ad’s persuasion tactics than adults? Are some media channels more persuasive than others? These are some of the questions two University of Alabama researchers are asking at C&IS.

Drs. Nancy Brinson and Steven Holiday are conducting a series of studies surrounding the topic of children and media. Brinson’s research interests include ad personalization and privacy, and Holiday’s research centers on the development of a consumer identity with a focus on children.

“We have to understand the real effects advertising has on children and how they actually develop deep relationships with brands and with products,” said Holiday. “Part of that is exploring those advertising effects and using their outcomes to create practical implications that might have to do with ethics or regulation.”

In a collaboration with The University of Alabama’s Center for Public Television, Brinson and Holiday created a series of customized advertisements intended to target particular interests and learning styles of their 3-to-12-year-old participants. They are now in the process of surveying the children to assess the effectiveness of these ads and how susceptible the children were to the ad’s messaging.

The duo utilizes the Institute for Communication and Information Research’s (ICIR) Child and Family Media Lab, located in Reese Phifer Hall. Furnished to look and feel similar to a family living room, the lab is an engaging space for researchers to observe, interact and study the reactions and responses of children to various forms of media using creative methods of communication such as dolls, interactive games and hand puppets.

“You have to be able to speak to them on their level and connect with them,” said Holiday. “Some of these children won’t communicate verbally when we begin the study. But we use hand puppets that will talk to them and put them at ease, and they will point or talk to the puppet who feels the same way they do about the ad.”

For Brinson, the susceptibility of children to advertisements is an issue of privacy and safety. Advertising agencies will soon be able to tailor customized TV advertisements for children based on the consumer profiles of their households as well as their previous online behaviors.

“Parents need to be aware that this is coming, that TV ads are not just going to be generic; they’re going to be targeted specifically to your child,” said Brinson. “Because of smart TVs and other connected devices, it’s no longer just one-way transmission from a broadcast tower. Advertisers using these new addressable TV technologies will be able to interact with you and your children, just like when you are using a computer.”

According to Brinson and Holiday, past research suggests that children are extremely susceptible to this kind of advertising, because they don’t have the experiences or development to understand that these messages are intended to persuade them. They are therefore more likely to respond positively to a message that speaks to them personally and understands their interests.

For Holiday, understanding how children respond to advertisements and learn from them can further his interest in producing pro-social advertisements that teach children principles of a healthy lifestyle, anti-bullying or safety. So, personalized advertising can be concerning, yes, but it can also be leveraged to communicate important messages to children that influence their social, moral and cognitive development.

The efforts of Brinson and Holiday continue a proud legacy of scholarship at The University of Alabama, where research conducted by Dr. Jennings Bryant established a national reputation in the field of child media. Bryant’s work with Sesame Street and The Electric Company was instrumental in shaping how television programming helps children learn.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ faculty and students at The University of Alabama conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about the College’s research initiatives, visit

2020 Holle Award Winners Announced

The College of Communication and Information Sciences has announced the winners of the 2020 Holle Awards for Excellence in Creativity and Communication.

The awards are designed to celebrate and reward student achievement in the areas of book arts, filmmaking, media writing, screenwriting and public speaking. Each of these awards include a $10,000 prize.

  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Book Arts was awarded to University of the Arts MFA student Maria Welch for her piece, “Erratic Obsession,” a multi-directional accordion structure with text sourced from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892) and Annie Payson Call’s “Nerves and Common Sense” (1909).
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Filmmaking was awarded to University of Alabama student Magdalene Kennedy for “Losing Face,” a short film about a girl living in a self-contained world who learns how to get out of her own head.
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Media Writing was awarded to The University of Alabama’s James Ogletree for his piece, “Josh Jobe Beats the Odds,” which chronicled the long journey for Crimson Tide cornerback Josh Jobe from Miami to Tuscaloosa.
  • The Holle Award for Excellence in Screenwriting was awarded to The University of Alabama’s Nick Stellon, a senior TCF major, for his work, “The Butcher and the Beast.” Judges praised the script, saying, “I could not stop thinking about this story. I write this four days after having first read this script, and this story would not leave me. I can’t think of a more original idea in recent memory.”

“The 2020 Holle Award winners are true exemplars in the field of communication ,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. “Students from all areas of the country compete for these awards and their talents are extraordinary. Brigadier General Everett Holle believed in supporting excellence in communication and creativity and these award winners represent his legacy well.”

This year, due to the coronavirus, the Holle Award for Excellence in Public Speaking is not being awarded.

The Holle Awards are named for Brigadier General Everett Hughes Holle, a 1950 graduate of The University of Alabama who served as an announcer, director, writer and producer during his 40-year career at NBC 13. Holle was a member of the College of Communication and Information Sciences’ board of visitors where he passionately invested in the success of University of Alabama students for years. In 2019, the Holle Family Foundation gave the largest donation in College history, part of which went towards funding the Holle Awards for Excellence in Creativity and Communication.

C&IS Student Finishes Second in Hearst Writing Competition

Journalism student James Ogletree has won second place in the 60th annual William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s Journalism Awards Program. This outstanding achievement marks the highest finish ever for a student from the College of Communication and Information Sciences.

Ogletree, a senior journalism major from Virginia Beach, VA, who also serves as the sports editor for The Crimson White, wrote his story, “Tagovailoa Leaves Legacy of Family, Excellence and Selflessness,” after The University of Alabama’s star quarterback Tua Tagavailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury in November. The story focused on Tagavailoa’s legacy at UA.

Ogletree interviewed current UA football players and members of the sorority flag football team Tagavailoa coached, as well as other sources from UA Athletcis. Ogletree’s story was submitted to the program by journalism and creative media associate professor Scott Parrott and Office of Student Media associate director Mark Mayfield.

The Hearst Journalism Awards Program is conducted under the auspices of accredited schools of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication and fully funded and administered by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. The 14 monthly competitions consist of five writing, two photojournalism, one radio, two television and four multimedia, with championship finals in all divisions. The program awards up to $700,000 in scholarships and grants annually.

C&IS MA Student Wins AEJMC Thesis Award

Mark Mayfield, a Journalism Master of Arts student in the College of Communication and Information Sciences, was recently awarded the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s (AEJMC) Hazel Dicken-Garcia Award for his thesis, “At Home: Shelter Magazines and the American Life, 1890 to 1930.”

Mayfield, who will be joining the faculty of the department of journalism and creative media for the Fall semester, was advised in his thesis by Drs. Chris Roberts and Diane Bragg, as well as Dr. Rich Megraw from the University’s department of American studies.

“This thesis offers a rich look at a largely untouched medium, the shelter magazine, and it provides a solid foundation for future study,” AEJMC Thesis Committee Chairwoman Amy Lauters said. “Judges were particularly impressed with its originality and its contribution to the field of media history.”

A shelter publication is characterized by a focus on interior design, gardening and other home design elements. Mayfield comes from a background of shelter publications, having previously served as an editor-in-chief of three different publications – “House Beautiful,” “Traditional Home” and “Southern Accents.” At Bragg’s urging, he expanded a paper written in class to focus on the history of these publications.

“I wanted to try and add to the historical record, and also learn this history for myself,” Mayfield said. “Although I worked at shelter magazines in the past, I had little time in those days to go back and see what editors long before me had accomplished or how these magazines had influenced American life.”

The Hazel Dicken-Garcia Award is presented annually by AEJMC’s History Division and awards a master’s student for an outstanding thesis on a topic in mass communication history. Mayfield, Bragg and Roberts will be honored at the AEJMC Annual Conference in San Francisco on August 7.